Inspired to write

July 8, 2008

Occasionally there are other writers who spur us to explore different topics and open discussions on existing matters that cause ire and angst. One such writer is Bella English, and her recent column in the Boston Globe and on got me ranting about cyclist rights and the arrogance of drivers in the metro-Boston area.

Coincidentally, this week saw the start of the 2008 Tour de France (see my blog on that race) and many cyclists are fired up and enthusiastic about getting back on skinny tires and attacking the road. But back to Bella.

In her column, she spoke of instances where she’s borne the brunt of ignorant and angry drivers’ actions. She contended (poorly) that the people she rides with obey the rules of the road and only want respect from drivers. Unfortunately, Ms. English didn’t make her points clear enough and nearly 250 people have been flaming the message boards at with arguments they think are counter hers.

Where do I stand? Neatly on the side away from the idiots…and there are idiots on both sides of the issue.

As a cyclist, a former mountain bike racer, an experienced bike mechanic (Pan Mass Challenge, Harpoon Brewery to Brewery Tour and American Lung Association Lung Trek), and a participant in multiple charity rides, I think cyclists can be stupid. They’re riding a 24-lb piece of metal that will crumple like tissue paper in a hurricane if struck by an SUV or even a Smart Car. And they’re riding this metal contraption as if it’s the only thing on the road.

Further, these idiot riders don’t obey many of the rules of the road. Sometimes it’s because the rules aren’t practical (have you ever sat through three light cycles because your aluminum road bike wasn’t heavy enough or magnetic enough to trip the automatic light switch?) or because of ‘safety’ concerns.

Just talk to the rider who lane splits his way to the front of traffic so he can better see the road ahead. What he doesn’t realize is that 14 drivers are now pissed at him because he’s blocking the road and he’s ahead of them. If he were following the rules, he’d be taking a proper spot in a lane and moving with traffic until the pace became too fast and he had to move to the side.

Hang on, this isn’t a bike bash-fest. I think drivers are worse.

Insulated as they are in their cars, they don’t pay enough attention to the road, to the other cars, to pedestrians, to bikes or to traffic laws. Since cars are one of the ultimate symbols of personal freedom, many people take offense when someone hinders that ‘right’.

Hello ignorance. Cycling, piloting a car, walking and even driving a scooter require that you follow the rules of the road. Don’t be an idiot and cross against the green. Don’t take a right on red if there’s a sign saying no to. Don’t blast through stop signs just because you’re on a bike. And don’t park on the sidewalk if your scooter is larger than a bike.

Ms. English had some valid points about tolerance from all angles but she seemed to be leaning more to the cyclist’s side. For those of us who ride bikes, drive cars and speed around on scooters, I wish we all were held to the same standards.

Bicyclists should be ticketed when they fail to yield or stop, when they’re obstructing traffic, or when they’re going the wrong way.

Cars should be towed immediately when they’re double parked. Drivers should be arrested for not following traffic laws. And licenses should be revoked much more quickly than is currently the case.

I’ve personally initiated legislation to get all motorists tested every two years so that poor drivers or those who don’t know the laws will be weeded out of the system. I’m all for licensing cyclists and all vehicles on the road – even smaller-engined vehicles that currently are treated like bikes.

And it would be great if the cost of having a license were commensurate with the responsibility and freedom it connotes. In Europe it costs about $3000 to get your license. Why is it any different here?

I find that European drivers are more skilled and don’t take their privilege for granted. Wouldn’t it be great if the same situation existed here?

I thought so. I’m glad Ms. English got on her soap box so I could get on mine.

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